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India Prepares for First India-Africa Summit


India is preparing to host a two-day summit of leaders of key African countries in a bid to deepen engagement with the continent. The meeting that starts Tuesday is an effort by India to raise its political profile in the resource-rich region. Anjana Pasricha files a report from New Delhi.

The line-up of African leaders attending the summit in New Delhi spans the entire continent - from Egypt in the north to South Africa.

Indian Junior Foreign Minister, Anand Sharma, says both India and Africa represent developing regions with shared challenges, and have much to share.

"Both the sides are of this considered view that this summit is not only historic, but will give a new dimension and momentum to the partnership that is there and evolving between Africa and India," said Sharma.

The Indian foreign minister says both sides will collaborate in areas like agriculture, food security, human-resource development, and infrastructure development.

Political analysts say India is hosting the summit to rectify what they call New Delhi's neglect of Africa in recent decades.

India once shared close ties with the continent, and staunchly supported the African independence struggle against colonial rulers. But its influence waned in recent decades as it focused on building closer ties with United States and Europe.

Analysts say India wants to ensure it is not left behind by China, which has made deep inroads into the continent. African countries are emerging as a big market for Indian goods as they post strong growth.

India also wants to tap Africa's huge reservoir of resources for its growing economy. India is already competing fiercely with China for some of these assets, especially energy sources.

An African expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, A.K.Pasha, says Africa is emerging as the new global oil hub.

"India's rapid economic growth forces it to have secure sources of energy, both oil and gas away from the volatile Gulf area," said Pasha. "Large number of deals have been finalized with countries like Egypt, Libya, Algeria to Nigeria, and now we are looking for Angola and Gabon."

India's trade with African countries is growing steadily, and added up to more than $20 billion last year. But experts say that is far below potential, and point to China's $55 billion trade with the continent in the same period.

Analysts say New Delhi also wants greater political influence in Africa so that it can get support from the continent's big bloc of nations on global issues such as reform of the U.N. Security Council, world trade negotiations and climate change.

But the task of wooing Africa may not be easy. African countries say they want partners who will treat them as equals and help them modernize their economies - not simply exploit their resources.

The countries attending the summit, the first of its kind, include Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Algeria, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

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